Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Week 3: I've Made my Masterpiece!!

It's Week 3 1/2 actually of the TpT Seller Challenge and I'm excited to FINALLY be done making my Masterpiece! Certainly a labor of love! I'm thankful for this challenge because it has not only motivated me to create a quality product but has encouraged me to keep making more! I had so much fun with this one! If you are just tuning in and want to learn more about this exciting challenge, be sure to check out these fabulous blogs!


This week's assignment was to  "Make your Masterpiece". 

There is so much to this and I will try my best to explain WHY I created this product and HOW I used this in my own classroom. But before I do, I think I need to go back in time to this past May when my 2nd grade team decided to take on another PBL (project-based learning) with our students.

We did a Changes Over Time PBL that was super successful earlier in the year and we were ready to tackle this next one with our Science unit on Animals. (See the Changes Over Time PBL post HERE)

Before I go on, are you familiar with project-based learning (PBLs)?? If not check out this site for more info!

I also love this image as it contains the Essentials for a Successful PBL.

This was technically our 2nd year to do this Animal Research PBL but this year, I feel we really rocked it. I mean, the students!  :)

So WHY did I create these printables and resources for a PBL...Aren't the students supposed to independently create everything on their own?  Well, kinda. We certainly gave our 2nd graders plenty of Voice and Choice with this experience but also thought we needed some printables to help guide them. We remained facilitators in their learning and I wanted to create some resources that would make the whole PBL run smoothly. PBLs can be challenging for the student and the teacher but it CAN BE DONE!

Here is a preview of what's included!

OK, here is HOW our own PBL went down as well as HOW I used these printables. :)

First every PBL must have a good ENTRY EVENT:

We had made some efforts to reach out to a local zoo to see if we could Skype with a zoologist or to have a traveling zoo come to us. Unfortunately we were not able to arrange that so instead, we showed a highlight video from the San Diego Zoo.

 As you can see from (some of) their faces, they were clearly engaged. : )

Then I posed the Driving Question: 

"So, we are going to build a zoo and have REAL animals in it??!"

Well, not exactly but we are definitely "building" a zoo (using chart paper and colored pencils!) and each student would be an expert on an animal of their choice and would have to design a habitat. They would have to research their chosen animal focusing on 4 "MUST HAVE" topics. A PBL usually has some MUST HAVE guidelines that the students must include. We called anything extra, their "SHOW OFFS". 

The 4 "Must Have" areas were based on our State Standards: 

1. Physical Characteristics
2. Behaviors of the Animal
3. Habitat
4. Diet/Food Chain

Of course, we didn't reveal this to the students just yet. We started with choosing our animal! I had the kids write it on chart paper so we wouldn't have 2 of the same animals in our zoo. 

Then we started with the first printable! The students completed a circle map with their background knowledge about their animal. They needed to write down all the info that they already knew. Most students chose their favorite animal and already knew a lot!

Sorry for the blurry pic, it was the only student example I got!

Once we had completed our circle map, I introduced the next key component for a PBL. 

Setting a Purpose & NEED to KNOW

I wanted the kids to come up with their own questions and set a purpose for learning. This printable on the left guided them to use an Animal book as well as websites for research. 

Then as a class we created our list of NEED to KNOW questions that we all thought we would need to know to design a habitat for our animal.  We wrote them on chart paper, which I don't have a picture of so I recreated it here.)

The next day we looked back at our Need to Know questions and determined that we had 4 main areas that we could focus our research on....
Can you guess what they are??

1. Physical Characteristics
2. Behaviors of the Animal
3. Habitat
4. Diet/Food Chain

Yep, the same 4 "MUST HAVES" I discussed earlier in this post based on our state standards. As a facilitator we can certainly guide our students to come up with the components of the PBL. Score!

Then we were ready to research!

But not before I introduced the Research Booklet. This was AMAZING!! Here's a preview...

Seriously, so simple. All printables are included for you to make your own booklet. All you need is 2 large construction paper sheets and interested students!!

I LOVED how the kids could take their notes on the post its and stick it right to their page. 

The top of each page had one of the "Must Have" topic headers and guiding questions glued on. 

The guiding questions under the topic header helped the students research for those answers. Then they would write them down on the post it notes. I did color coordinate the sticky notes. Just a personal preference. 

I also was researching my own animal, the cheetah, and modeled for the students all throughout the research days how I found information. This seemed to really help. 

The kids researched first in their Animal Book checked out from our school library and some kids used our classroom books. I have A LOT of animal books!

But I also allowed them to research online. My amazing teammate over at The Polka-Dotted Pencil, created a Symbaloo which kept all of our teacher-approved websites in one spot. The kids could easily access the Symbaloo from our teacher website. I highly recommend you creating one for your students to use. Super easy!

Have some students who really need lines instead of using post its? No problem, I created some...

We researched one of the "MUST HAVE" topics over a day or two. We spent an entire week on researching! During this time, I pulled students over individually to check their status and provide additional support if needed. 

Once our research was completed, the students organized their research with a couple of T charts...

I wanted the kids to know the reason WHY their animal had sharp teeth or WHY their animal only hunted at night etc. This really helped bring the level of understanding up a notch. 

This student had all of her questions checked off and Post it notes finished and was ready to transfer it to the T-chart. 

I jazzed up my original printable (below) for the masterpiece task. :) 

 During this research time, we also had several different mini-lessons tied into our 4 Must-Have areas. One mini lesson and activity is included in the printables!

Teaching posters...

After reviewing the posters and watching a few videos on Discovery Education, we discussed our research animal and whether it hibernates, migrates or adapts. Most of the kids already knew this information from their research! We made a class graph on a pocket chart. I didn't have these fancy headers or animal cards yet so we just used note cards! Here is what the headers and animal cards look like...

Just cut and laminate and place in pocket chart. 

Animal cards for students to write the name of their animal and then sort it into the right category!

I also made blank ones in case your kids want to draw their animal instead. 

Then we discussed what we noticed on the class graph. Which category had the most of our animals? etc. Then I gave them this graph printable to complete.

I also made one to go up to 18 animals in case you have a bigger class or you have a lot of animals in the same category!

On the back, they answered questions and even wrote their own question for a friend to solve!

It was a great activity that covered some of our Math standards as well!

Once the students had completed their research, I had them organize their writing into paragraphs.  

As a class,  we came up with a few paragraph starters. These are included in the printables!

One student's notes.....

Organized into Paragraphs...

Then it was time to discuss HOW we would present our research and learning. I LOVE giving my students voice and choice in my classroom.  We brainstormed some different ideas that we could do and came up with 3 project choices. 

1. Create a Nonfiction Book of our Animal
2. Create a Powerpoint using Google Slides
3. Create an Animal Report in iMovie using the Green screen effect ( I plan to write up a tutorial on this in another post...still working out the kinks but it was very successful with the majority of my students who chose this option) 

This student is writing his "script" in Google Docs that he plans to read for his animal report iMovie!

This student chose to create a book!

 We spent another entire week working on our projects!

They turned out GREAT! I was so proud of them!! (And this is the time in my post where I wish I had taken pictures of their final projects. Ugh!) 
The kids who chose their Google Slides presentation or the iMovie option have them saved in their google drive!

Only a few of my students created books and this was just one of the books that I captured a couple of pictures of...

MOST of my students chose the Technology options!

Here is a link to one of my student's Google Slides Presentation!

And here is a link to one of their animal reports in iMovie!

I created some checklists and Rubrics for these projects. I made them general enough that I only needed one rubric for all 3 different project options. 

There are EDITABLE versions included in the printables. :) There is also a PEER Review for students to partner up with a peer to complete a checklist! This is all a part of the Reflection piece of the PBL puzzle. 

Once our projects were nearing completion it was time for us to revisit the Driving Question and actually build our zoo!

But first, we researched different zoo layouts...

We had a discussion of what type of layout we wanted for our own zoo.

Then we needed a name...

I gave the kids some time to get their idea written on the board for our zoo name.

Then we voted and decided on "The Might MeGown Zoo"!

Next we had to decide which habitat type our animal needed...

Once we had our animals in their preferred habitat (I didn't correct them just yet if they were wrong, some figured it out once we made their habitat) , we could start to sketch out our zoo. 

This picture was taken a couple of days in so we had already made a lot of progress!

The kids created their habitat on a half sheet of copy paper. On the inside, they wrote 4 complete sentences (1 sentence for each "Must Have" topic) explaining what their animal needs in their habitat. Then they chose a location for their specific habitat. I LOVE how our zoo turned out! The kids worked so hard!

We named the different regions of our zoo like we saw on many of the other zoo layouts. Here is our "Famous Forest" region...

Arctic Area

Rainforest Region
 African Savannah

And the center of our zoo!

And lastly, our projects and zoo needed a PUBLIC AUDIENCE. We invited another 2nd grade class to come to our classroom. We had it set up like a museum for the students to do a Gallery Walk. We actually swapped classrooms and got to go check out their zoo and projects while they looked at ours. 

Getting everything ready!

The students had their laptops on their desk to show their Google Slides presentation or their iMovie. And those who made books had them displayed on their desks. 

A movie from the other classroom...

They created a BIG zoo using construction paper.

 I had the kids bring sticky notes to the other class so that they could write down compliments or questions. 

 Then we headed back to our own classroom to check out each other's projects. 

This was such an INCREDIBLE PBL opportunity for our 2nd graders and I am so happy to share it!

Be sure to check out these Printables and Resources on TpT. It will be on sale through this Thursday (7/9) Be sure to check it out!!

Also, be sure to check out the other amazing Masterpieces in the link up by visiting one of the blogs above!

Thank you so much for reading about our Animal Research PBL!


  1. This looks amazing!!!! I wish I would have had this last year! I will definitely be checking this our for next year. It looks awesome!!

    2 Literacy Teachers

    1. Thanks so much, Lindsey! It definitely took some time and effort but our kids just blew us away! It's just awesome how we released most of the responsibility to them and they just really rose to the occasion! Let me know if you would like this for your students next year. I will give you a discount! :) Thanks for leaving feedback!

  2. Holy cow, this is amazing! I love project based learning and think you put this product together in a fantastic and engaging way. I'm just sad that it's a bit too advanced for my first graders! Awesome job on this week's challenge.

    Paiges of Learning

    1. Thank you so much, Paige! I am so happy with how it turned out! I also LOVE PBLs and can't wait to do more of them! Best of luck next year with your firsties! Heading over to check out your blog now. ;)